In this, dear readers, I can be brief (I hope)!
Day Nine was LONG and filled with many stops in Jerusalem to discuss the implications of the occupation of Palestinian territories and the history therein.
We started by traveling to an Arab village just outside of Jerusalem and having an intense session with an Israeli Arab who taught us about Islam. I’ve been relatively well informed about Islam, but it was excellent to see the sparks of interest light in my fellow Taglit members’ eyes during the talk and discussion. Our hostess was originally from Britain and a convert to Islam, though has been in Israel for ten years.
Unfortunately, I began to feel unsteady toward the end. You see, dear readers, I have been using a “Bobble” water bottle that filters water as I drink it but we had no opportunities to fill or refill our water bottles today. Add to that my hives, which showed up underneath the entirety of my burned areas of skin, that necessitated an “emergency” dose of medications and I was at an increased risk for dehydration. I didn’t notice that fact, of course, until much later in the day.
While I managed to stay on my feet, however, another of our group was not so lucky! Thank goodness she is ok and she knew enough about what was happening to prepare herself (and us)! It was a very hot day and while we’d left our Medic mostly without any need to open his backpack for most of the trip, today and yesterday seemed to be a test of his readiness.
After that we traveled to three different stops… all of which lacked places to refill water-bottles. As it was the second-to-last day, I was also woefully short on currency and couldn’t afford to buy water from our bus driver. I got massively dehydrated (to the point I couldn’t stand anymore and was having difficulty seeing straight). By the time we broke for lunch, it had been almost seven hours since breakfast (which I shouldn’t do on my medications) and six since I’d had a chance to refill my water bottle.
Luckily, one of my group members let me have some of his water.
And, honestly, I’m really depressed that I missed so much of the discussion. Today was the type of stuff that I came on a birthright trip to do and here I was, too sick to really pay attention. ARGH! Add to that the constant complaining from other members in the group who apparently didn’t expect to do any learning experiences on the trip (which mystifies me), and I was just a grouch.
When we broke for lunch it was at a strip mall that was almost exclusively places to eat. I went first to McDonalds, where I had a nice meal and drank two water bottles full in addition to my large diet coke. I felt much better, but still ravenously hungry, so I went on a walk around the mall and found a “Big Apple Pizza” and bought a slice to sit and read. It was very pleasant (and again I’m forced to note the fact that Israeli pizza is leaps and bounds better than American).
After lunch we walked to Har Hertzle, the large military cemetery and memorial complex in Jerusalem. Our guide and Israeli friends spoke a lot about the heroism of some of the people buried there, and we got to see the tombs of some of the past prime ministers, as well as Hertzle himself (the “father” of the zionist movement). I’d been there when I was here in 8th grade, so I found I knew quite a bit already.
We sang Hatikvah around Hertzle’s grave and then clamored to the bus to prepare for our “night out” on Ben Yehuda street. Dinner was laden with peppers and sadly mostly inedible for me, and when we got on the bus I practically had to strongarm my way into the only seat that I fit in (length wise).
Of course people were already drunk. It was shameful and gross. I am really disappointed by the fact that a majority of my group (probably somewhere close to, if not more than, twenty of them) were so focused on being drunk or getting drunk for the entirety of the trip. We even had a special meeting about an open bottle of vodka found on the bus and sexual harassment for goodness’ sake. The behavior is disgusting on what’s supposed to be a trip to kindle (or rekindle) your Jewish identity.
I love Israel. I wish I never had to leave. By the same token, though, I am so homesick that I’m ready to cry. Day 10 will be very bittersweet for me, as I spend most of it too busy to think and the rest waiting in airports or on planes.